On Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment that, if approved by the Senate, would make desecration of the American flag illegal.
Republican representative Randy Cunningham of California used the tragedy of 9/11 (is there really any other way?) to explain his support for the amendment saying,"Ask the men and women who stood on top of the Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment." Mr. Cunningham failed to provide any contact information however.
The Democratic representative Jerrold Nadler replied,"If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents." Nadler is, semi-ironically, a representative from New York. But what do New Yorkers know about 9/11 anyway?
The fact of the matter is that the passage of the amendment sets a very dangerous precedent in the war against our freedoms of free speech. It sends the message that some forms of peaceful protest against the government are not allowed. It says that because some things are revered regardless of circumstance by part of the population that it is illegal for others to criticize it. It comes as no surprise that this idea would be held by so many in a religious society where criticism of other's irrational beliefs is characterized as being intolerant. If the flag is a symbol of our freedom and democracy and that is why we cannot desecrate it, how much different is it to say that our elected President is a symbol of freedom and democracy and thus should not be criticized?
Besides sending the message that you are limited in the way that you may criticize the government, what else does the amendment accomplish? Not much. Are we going to stem the widespread phenomenon of flag-burning in America? Have you ever seen an American flag being burned (besides TV footage from foreign countries)? Unless you lived during the Vietnam War, probably not.
But why burn a flag to protest? There are other legal means of showing your dissatisfaction. Well, just because there are other avenues does not mean that we shouldn't be free to decide. If you think about it, flag burning can attract attention to a cause that other forms of peaceful protest, like posters and fliers, can't. If I'm driving down the road and I see this out of the corner of my eye
I'll probably think that it's this
However a burning flag is more likely to get attention and people will understand how troubling you believe a part of U.S. policy to be. As it was during the Vietnam War, when you have friends and family who are dying for a war that you believe we shouldn't be fighting, is it that extreme for you to burn a mass-produced polyester flag? Would people take your problems as seriously if you made some stupid poster? Probably not.
Is it not strange to say that we are not free to burn the flag because it's a symbol of our freedom?